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The educational significance of social

media – a critical perspective


keynote debate at Ed-Media conference 2010, Toronto, 28th June to 2nd July

Neil Selwyn
London Knowledge Lab
Institute of Education - University of London, UK

n.selwyn@ioe.ac.uk

Background notes:

This paper is a written version of a keynote debate presentation given to the 2010 Ed-
Media conference hosted in Toronto by the Association for the Advancement of
Computing in Education (AACE). The presentation was given in opposition to the
following motion:

‘Be it Resolved that this House Believes that the Use of Social Media and
Networking is Contributing to the Attainment of Significant Educational
Goals in Ways that Suggest Even More Powerful Future Impact’

Jon Dron from Athabasca University presented in favor of the motion.


The educational significance of social
media – a critical perspective

Introduction

Before we consider the main reasons why we should oppose this motion, let me shed
some light on who I am and where I am coming from. A fair proportion of this
audience is probably thinking ‘who is he to come here at 8.30 in the morning to our
conference to tell us what to think about our technology?’. This is certainly what I
would be thinking if I were you! Hardly anyone in this room will have heard me talk
before. It is true to say that I am not a typical ‘Ed-Media’ presenter. I am not now, nor
have I ever been, a card-carrying member of the ACCE. I do not work in ‘ed-tech’ and
I am certainly not an impassioned web-two-point-ologist or an open source evangelist.
Yet neither am I a crazed Luddite or a cranky contrarian. I am neither high-tech nor
low-tech. Instead, I would like to think that I am simply a balanced observer of
education and technology – someone who is interested in making sense of the realities
of what happens when technology meets education.

Unfortunately I am a balanced observer who cannot refuse a challenge! I realize that


this is a very ‘tough gig’. The offer to fly halfway around the world to oppose this
seemingly unassailable motion at this undeniably god-forsaken time to this
technologically-attuned audience was too ludicrous a proposition to turn down. When
the conference organizers informed me that everyone in the room would have a
mobile voting device in order to instantaneously tell me how much they hated my
arguments, then I was doubly determined to make it here. After all, what have I got to
lose … except for my pride, my professional reputation, future book sales and
chances of ever working this side of the Atlantic again?

On a slightly more serious note, I believe that engaging with the negative – as well as
the positive – aspects of our field is a necessary step towards creating a better
educational technology. Despite our differences, I think that everyone in this room is
on the same page when it comes to education and technology. I think that we are all in
agreement that social media is a prominent part of the current digital landscape, and
will be an even more prominent part of our digital lives in years to come. However, I
think that all of us in this room would agree that the only thing that we can be
completely certain of when it comes to education and technology is that there is no
certainty. The relationship between education and social media – or any form of
technology for that matter – is not as straightforward as we might like it to be. The
‘impact’ of technology on society is not something that can be discussed in simple
binary terms of black/white, true/false or favor/oppose. One of the most useful things
that I have taken from my own discipline of sociology it is that ‘the social’ is never a
completely cut-and-dried, completely predictable or completely certain affair. As
such, the only sensible response to the statement posed at the beginning of this debate
is neither ‘Yes’ nor ‘No’ – it is simply (and perhaps disappointingly) ‘Don’t Know’. If
we are all being honest with ourselves then it makes no sense to be in favor of the
motion – however much we agree with its sentiment or however much we want to

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believe it.

So now that we have decided how you are all going to vote, we can give some further
thought as to why you are going to oppose the motion. One of the really interesting
issues that this debate raises is the need for educational technologists of all
persuasions to collectively reassess why it is that they believe what they do. What
logic and reason lie behind opposing or supporting this motion? What evidence is
there to inform our response? Put in these terms, it is astonishing how much of the
recent debate around social media and education appears to be driven by belief,
speculation, anecdote and personal experience rather than recourse to actual evidence.
This situation is puzzling, as academics should be the first people to know that simply
‘believing in’ something is usually not a good basis for reaching firm conclusions. For
instance, many people attending ED-MEDIA ‘10 will come from computer science or
cognitive science backgrounds – academic disciplines that rely upon rigorous testing
of hypotheses in a variety of contexts before any firm conclusions can be drawn. So as
far as thinking about the influence of social media on our lives is concerned, it could
be argued that computer scientists “rush ahead of skeptical, scientific enquiry at
[their] peril” (Lanier 2010, p.18). Similarly, one of the basic rules-of-thumb for those
of us who would consider ourselves to be social scientists is remembering to ‘make
the familiar strange’ – in other words remembering to look beyond our own privileged
personal experiences of technology and think of the ‘wider picture’.

When approached in these sober terms, then this debate is clearly not about what
social media has done for ‘you’ or ‘I’, or for our own children and grandchildren.
Everyone in this room will have had personal experience of the potential benefits of
social media. But if we are talking about the ‘attainment of significant educational
goals’ and ‘powerful future impact’ then we have to look far beyond our own
personal experiences. So this debate is not about what social media can do for the
minority of ‘usual suspects’ who have always benefited from the latest technologies
and the latest upgrades. At the heart of this debate – and at the heart of all debates
about education and technology – are a host of far more complex questions about the
ability of digital technology to change education for the better on a widespread and
sustained basis. If we approach the motion in these rather more substantial and
significant terms, then there are very few good reasons at this particular moment in
time to do anything but oppose this motion.

Considering the actual – rather than potential - use of social media in education

The most obvious question to ask of this motion is how does it correspond with what
know of social media use in the ‘real world’ of ‘real users’ and their ‘real lives’? In
other words, how is social media actually being used beyond the world of academic
ed-tech conferences, journals and discussion forums? If we consider the educational
‘significance’ of social media in these terms then there would seem to be little solid
ground on which to support this motion. The fact remains that social media
technologies are not used widely by general populations of internet users in the ways
that proponents would like to imagine. Despite all that is written about the potential of
social media it is important to remember that in reality these are all trends at the
margins rather than the mainstream of education – even in a technologically

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privileged country such as Canada.

Indeed, in even the richest countries around the world the majority of social media use
involves little more than checking in on Facebook (or its local equivalent) and
looking things up on Wikipedia. The vast majority of internet users have never heard
of FourSquare, Tumblr, Gowalla and their ilk. Moreover, across all segments of the
population – young and old - people’s engagement with even the most popular forms
of social media remain stubbornly differentiated along lines of socio-economic status
and social class, as well as race, gender, geography and educational background
(Helsper and Eynon 2010, Jones and Fox 2009, Hargittai 2007, Hargittai and Walejko
2008). Indeed, it could be argued that the high profile that social media currently
enjoys in commercial and news media circles stems precisely from the fact that the
users and audiences of such applications remain skewed towards young, male, well-
educated Western users.

This compromised picture continues if we consider the nature of people’s social


media use. Here, it would seem that the majority of people who do use social media
are perhaps best termed as ‘non-active users’ – passively downloading content rather
than engaging in any meaningful acts of creation or sharing (Brandtzæg 2008). A
growing body of empirical studies highlights a lack of ‘sophisticated’ or ‘advanced’
use of social media services and applications amongst populations of users at all ages
and stages of life (e.g. Kennedy et al. 2008, Chan and McLoughlin 2008, Luckin et al.
2009, Nicholas et al. 2008, Caruso and Salaway 2008, Head and Eisenberg 2010).
This picture holds true across all age groups and territories - from Los Angeles to
London, and from Toronto to Tokyo. As Donna Chu’s (2010, n.p.) recent study of
well-educated teenagers in Hong Kong concluded: “contrary to popular rhetoric,
young people are far from active users or prosumers in the new media age”.

Even when individuals are making use of social media in more ‘active’ and desirable
ways, it seems to be nigh on impossible to ‘prove’ any discernible ‘contribution’ or
‘effect’ on learning. Put simply, credible evidence of the assumed educational benefits
associated with social media use is hard to come by. Every quasi-experimental study
that claims “a statistically significant improvement for knowledge acquisition by 204
percent compared to conventional experience descriptions” (Ras and Recha 2009,
p.553), is contradicted by counter-evidence reporting that social media applications
‘over-simplify’ education and ‘diminish learning abilities’ (Ben-David 2011). As with
every previous incarnation of educational technology, pinpointing the actual
educational benefits and learning ‘gains’ associated with technology use remains as
much a matter of faith as it is a matter of fact.

Of course, all these criticisms pale into insignificance if we consider the relevance of
this debate to the majority of the world’s population. Indeed, from a truly worldwide
perspective this debate could be read as being astonishingly insensitive to the paucity
of technology access – let alone technology use – across developing nations. Despite
long-running predictions of the mobile-based internet revolution in the developed
world, the fact remains that in a country such as Ethiopia less than one per cent of the
rural population has access to electricity and only 13 per cent of households have a
regular electricity supply. More important still, only half the population can read
(Leadbeater 2010). Set against these stark realities, the motion that we are being asked
to support appears rather out of touch with reality.

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Challenging the educational benefits of social media and education

All these caveats and criticisms certainly make voting in favor of the motion rather
less justifiable than it may have first appeared. For anyone thinking objectively, a
number of challenges to the presumed ‘goodness of fit’ between education and social
media come to mind from our discussion so far. For instance, just why does social
media use remain at the periphery of most people’s educational lives? Why has there
apparently been no educational ‘killer-app’ or ‘game changer’ that has transformed
learning along the open, mass-participatory and convivial lines that we are continually
being promised? Why is there such an obvious gap between the rhetoric and the
reality of social media use in education?

In considering these challenges, it quickly becomes apparent that there are plenty of
reasons for us to be wary of the triumphal and rather self-satisfied sentiment that
pervades a lot of current debates about education and social media. Of course, it
makes no sense to be wary of social media per se. It certainly makes no sense to talk
about social media in the reactionary, conservative and panicked tones that some
headline-grabbing commentators are prone to do. There is little sustained, rigorous
evidence that social media are actually ‘dumbing down’ current generations of
learners or stymieing the development of neural networks and cognitive capacities
(c.f. Keen 2007, Carr 2010, Bauerlein 2008, Sigman 2009). That said, it also makes
no sense to adopt a Pollyannaish stance towards social media that leaves one
unreceptive to the possibility that education in the digital age may not be as
straightforward or predicable as it could be. To reiterate the central theme of my
argument, the only certainty about technology and education is that we cannot be
certain.

This uncertainty is heightened when you consider the complexity of what ‘education’
actually is. Despite the tenor of much educational technology debate, ‘education’ is
not simply a value-free, technical matter of facilitating an individual’s learning. On
the contrary, some of the most significant aspects of education have little or nothing
to do with the act of learning per se. The term ‘education’ is most accurately
understood as the conditions and arrangements where learning takes place – be it the
institutionally sponsored provision of formalized learning or the ‘informal’ education
that takes place ‘under the radar’ of the education system. In these terms, some of the
most significant aspects of ‘education’ lie beyond the immediate instance of the
individual engaging in the process of learning – from the organizational cultures and
micro-politics of institutions such as the school, home and the workplace to the
influence of commercial marketplaces, nation-states and global economies. Of course,
it is sometimes difficult to make the connections between these ‘big’ issues and the
everyday use of digital technology. Yet it is disingenuous to consider any aspect of
the current debate without consideration of all these wider influences. For the time
being, there are at least four issues that spring to mind relating to a general lack of
‘goodness of fit’ between social media and some of these wider aspects of what
‘education’ is.
i) The ‘fit’ between education and the informal strengths of social media

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We should first consider the possibility that the activities, processes and practices that
social media may be best at supporting are activities, processes and practices that are
not actually directly related to ‘education’. Much of the social significance of social
media applications and tools stem from the seemingly routine and mundane things
that they support users in doing. In particular, social media support and facilitate the
‘nuts and bolts’ of social life - social interaction, presentation of self, social grooming
- what Mimi Ito terms ‘hanging out’ and ‘messing around’. Of course, one of the
mistakes that many critics make is dismissing the apparent mundanity of social media
as inconsequential and trivial - distracted perhaps by the never-ending supply of
contestable encyclopedia entries, schlocky videos of cats, pornography and inane
comments on TV shows. Yet it is precisely these mundane aspects of social media -
what Shirky (2008, p.86) terms “the ordinary stuff of life” – that underlie its
‘powerful impact’ on society in as much as these activities, processes and practices
are now played out on a “more open, personalized, participative and social” scale that
was ever possible before (Ravenscoft 2009, p.1).

Yet while undoubtedly of personal significance for individuals and their social
networks, such activities and content remain “the ordinary stuff of life” rather than
anything more powerful in terms of knowledge creation, learning or education.
Although these activities and processes are all essential aspects of social life it would
be a mistake to consider them as of direct ‘educational’ significance. It is trite to argue
that ‘everything is education’ or ‘everything is learning’. Informal learning is not
simply ‘incidental’ learning that takes place as a matter of course throughout our daily
lives. The informal learning that educators are most concerned with relates to learning
with intent and purpose – processes that lie beyond simply hanging out and messing
around online.

Of course, social media is well capable of supporting specific instances of hyper-


intentional, hyper-intensified, self-directed learning. As Ito’s research has shown,
these occasional instances of ‘geeking out’ are dependent on the far more frequent
engagement in non-educationally productive activities. Yet it would be a mistake to
conflate all social media use as educationally related or educationally productive. The
‘hanging out’ and ‘messing around’ may well be important foundations to – but are
not to be confused with – the processes of educational engagement. Moreover, it
would be a mistake to assume that educational benefits accrue automatically from
these non-educational practices and activities. When individuals do make these
connections, do enter the stage of ‘geeking out’ and can be said to be genuinely
learning through social media then there is a lot more at play than the social media
itself. The ‘attainment of significant educational goals’ that this motion seeks to
attribute to social media use perhaps has a lot less to do with the technology than the
individual and their non-technological circumstances.

ii) The ‘fit’ between social media and the formal strengths of education

Following on from these issues comes the concern that social media may not be that
good at doing things that are actually related directly to ‘education’. Indeed,
throughout all of this debate, we need to give careful thought as to what we may be
losing in the rush towards the informally-based practices of social media. In
particular, for all their faults, the more ‘traditional’ and more formal educational

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arrangements that preceded social media could be said to support a set of universal
entitlements that are difficult to replicate through any digital technology. In raising
these points, I am not attempting to invoke a conservative mis-remembering of a
‘golden age’ of education. We should always remember that in many ways schools
and universities are nasty, restrictive institutions – yet we should also acknowledge
that formal institutionalized modes of providing education do function remarkably
well, and should not be discounted completely.

Indeed, although it is currently fashionable in some educational technology circles to


advocate various forms of de-schooling or re-schooling we should remember that the
dominant structures and processes of formal education (such as curriculum,
assessment, enforced attendance) could be said to play a number of important
socially-restorative and socially-enabling roles. For instance, the notion of the ‘set
curriculum’ and being told what to learn may well appear to be the polar opposite of
the social media ethos, yet in many ways is a powerful means of achieving some of
the same outcomes that social media is often valorized for. One of the key functions
of the set curriculum is to provide access to the specialist knowledge that can lead to
powerful outcomes, such as new ways of thinking about the world, new abilities to act
in society and so on. Crucially, formal set curricula are intended to provide an
equality of opportunity that is often absent from more fluid, learner-driven means of
learning. A set curriculum ensures exposure to a variety of opportunities to access
‘powerful knowledge’ and learning – from the high status knowledge that leads to
qualifications and jobs (for example formal math, science and English), through to
matters of citizenship and even high-status digital technology use (Young 2007).

It could therefore be reasoned that set curricula and enforced attendance play a
valuable corrective role in ensuring equality of opportunity to forms of knowledge
that many individuals cannot acquire easily at home or in the community. As far as
many people are concerned, this is often knowledge that is not accessible through
informal education and that can only be transmitted through the formal educational
institution. In the case of these forms of powerful knowledge, it could be argued that
forma education provision plays a crucial enabling and supporting role. These are not
things that all individuals can discover or explore for themselves – not least because it
is usually very difficult for someone to “know what they do not know” (Young and
Muller 2009, p.7).

Traditional methods of education therefore provide a valuable ‘time for telling’ as


well as a ‘time for discovering’ knowledge (Schwartz and Bransford 1998). Perhaps
most importantly, formal educational settings provide a site for individuals to learn by
themselves and for themselves. There is clear educational merit in engaging in
individual thought and being forced to work for yourself. There is clear educational
merit in reaching your own private judgments and conclusions, not being helped and
being wrong. It could be argued that there is merit in seeing learning as a private,
individual activity that does not need to be commented on and shared at every stage.
Or course, these are all principles that are integral elements of the original
conceptions of notions such as the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ (Surowiecki 2004), but are
all too often lost in the subsequent (mis)interpretation and (mis)use of such ideas
throughout contemporary educational debate.

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iii) Social media, education and the logic of collective action

These concerns over the ability of social media to enhance educational opportunities
for all individuals are also heightened by the voluntary, individually-led nature of
social media participation. In particular concerns can be raised that the collective,
‘open source’ philosophy that lies at the heart of social media processes subjects
education participation to a potentially damaging mass ‘logic of collective action’
(Olson 1971). Put simply, this is the logic that not every individual needs to join a
group in order to benefit from its collective action - as Mark Considine describes, “if
the benefit to be achieved cannot be localized to those responsible for achieving it,
then it will be in the rational self-interest of the majority not to participate, and simply
to let others put themselves out to press the case for change” (Considine 2005, p.199).
Again, the idea that some people will contribute – and therefore benefit - more than
others is an accepted facet of the ‘market’ principles of open source practices. Yet
these inequalities are often overlooked or distorted by subsequent educational
discussions of social media technologies as fully-participative, democratic spaces
where all contribute and benefit accordingly.

Of course, the rhetoric of full-participation and ‘democracy’ belie the common social
media behaviors of ‘lurking’, ‘free-riding’, non-participation and the one-way passive
consumption of content. Indeed, web usage statistics suggest that the active creation
of content is a decidedly niche pastime, with the so-called ‘90-9-1 rule’ of
participation inequality continuing to prevail1. Yet while these patterns of
(non)participation may well be acceptable for many social media practices and
activities it could be argued that education and learning are activities that demand full
participation – whether the individual is inclined to do so or not. This is especially the
case with children, adolescents and young adults – where educational participation is
currently coerced for this very reason. The logic of ‘free-riding’ is based upon an
instrumental view of participation - assuming that participation is itself a cost with no
intrinsic benefits (Considine 2005). However, we know that the maximum benefit
from any social media processes – educational or otherwise - is gained through the
processes of participation and creation as well as the processes of consumption (e.g.
compare the activities of being involved in the creation and editing of a Wikipedia
entry as opposed to the activity of passively copy-and-pasting the latest Wikipedia
entry). Allowing individuals to engage with education on a non-participative ‘free-
riding’ basis effectively renders the full benefits of social media-based education as an
excludable rather than non-excludable process - what could be seen as a ‘club good’
or ‘collective good’ rather than a ‘public good’.

iv) Social media and the commodification of education

A final reason to be wary of the educational application of social media is its


extension of market-values and commercial sensibilities into an area of life that many
people believe should remain above such influences. Some educational discussions of
social media are based around a rather naïve belief that social media offers a purely
democratic and altruistic space for learning that is not centered around the narrow
self-serving interests of the ‘educational establishment’ or the proprietary IT industry.
However, it could be argued that social media increases an ethos of market-led
commodification and interest-led actions into educational practices – albeit not always

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on financial grounds. For example, some commentators point to the ‘commodification
of creativity’ that many social web tools engender (Allen 2008). Here it is argued that
most social media activities compel individuals to concentrate on a commoditized
promotion of self in pursuit of competitive status-driven and reputation-driven
advantage in the ‘attention economy’ of social media (Cox 2008). In this sense most
social media users are self-serving in their actions – even if their motivation is usually
based around relatively benign ego-driven issues of reputation, status or social
standing within their community or ‘tribe’ of peers (Raymond 1999). As such, it is a
mistake to treat social media as being free from the market imperfections associated
with parties working in their own self-interest – albeit that these parties are ‘private’
individuals rather than ‘public’ institutions.

That said, it would also be a mistake to assume that social media practices are free
from commercial constraint. If anything, social media could be said to mark the
increased privatization and commercialization of contemporary education processes
and practices. Whilst news media are keen to present stories of lone pioneers such as
Mark Zuckerberg creating applications such as Facebook in their spare-time, many of
the most prominent and popular social web services are mainstream, commercially
produced, for-profit services. Any discussion of the ‘future impact’ of social media in
education must acknowledge that social media is not necessarily free of charge, but
often driven by advertising revenue and underpinned by global media companies such
as Pearson, Mattel, News International and Disney keen to ‘monetarize’ their services
and shape social media to their own ends. Thus it is important to note that the
applications and services that most mainstream users experience as social media are
“not simply a benign space, but one that is ultimately shaped by commercial needs”
(Cox 2008, p.508). Whilst these may appear to be trivial concerns at the moment, any
serious consideration of the educational significance of social media must include
questions over how the profit-seeking role of many social media providers
corresponds with concerns over education and learning.

Balancing the rhetoric and reality of social media and education

Whether you agree with all of these points or not, it would be fair to conclude that
there are clear discrepancies between the boundless nature of the educational
promises of social media, and the obvious bounded nature of its use. We therefore
need to take a step back from proclaiming what social media ‘is’, ‘will be’ or ‘should
be’. Any debate such as this must remain mindful that we are still only a handful of
years into what will undoubtedly prove to be a long history of the internet and
education. As such, it is surely too soon to appear super-confident or super-
complacent of the educational significance of these fast-changing technologies.
Although many of the arguments that can be advanced in support of this motion could
well ‘come good’ in the long term, for the time being we would be well-advised to
exercise patience, cautiousness and reflective restraint in how we discuss the likely
educational future of social media. As John Naughton (2010, p.10) reminded us
recently:

“I’m writing this in 2010, which is seventeen years since the web went
mainstream. If I’m right about the net effecting a transformation in our

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communications environment comparable to that wrought by Gutenberg, then
it’s patently absurd for me (or anyone else) to pretend to know what its long-
term impact will be. The honest answer is that we simply don’t know. The
trouble is, though, that everybody affected by the net is demanding an answer
right now”.

How, then, can anyone be so certain about the educational significance of social
media only five years or so since the mainstream emergence of Wikipedia, Facebook
and the like? At this early stage of the game how can we be anything more than
curious but critical of social media as an emerging educational phenomenon?

Above all, we need to move beyond the mindset that these are purely technical issues
and debates with neat technical solutions. Instead it is important to acknowledge the
ideological aspects of everything that has been discussed in this debate so far. In fact,
most of the issues that we have considered up until this point are highly value-driven
and concerned primarily with fundamental questions of what kinds of education we
value and consider appropriate for contemporary society. As such, any debate over the
‘significance’ of social media is going to be driven by personal belief and opinion
about ‘the essentially ethical question’ of ‘what counts’ as worthwhile learning and
worthwhile education (Standish 2008, p.351). We therefore need to be very clear that
these are discussions about the politics of educational provision more than anything
else.

Put in these terms, then the clear appeal of social media for many educational
technologists is that these applications, tools and services correspond with wider
beliefs about the value of learning that is interactive, learner-centered, social,
authentic, more decentralized, plural and collaborative and so on. Similarly, the
seemingly de-institutionalized, ‘bottom-up’ and democratized qualities of social
media have a clear affinity with wider ideas about how education should be organized
and provided. Although many of us may well sympathize with these beliefs it is
important to acknowledge that many of the arguments put forward in support of social
media in education are highly idealistic rather than realistic – based on personal
values, assumptions and preferences. It is also important to acknowledge that the act
of pursuing these values and ideals through the educational implementation of social
media will inevitably compromise and jeopardize other sets of values and ideals that
may also be worth retaining. Not everything about twentieth century education is in
need of immediate rejection or transformation during the opening years of the twenty-
first century. While there is nothing wrong with being hopeful and ambitious when
thinking about social media and the future of education, it is a mistake to conflate
these emotions with certainty and probability.

Conclusions

So where now? Hopefully, you should all be convinced that the very complex issues
that underlie the use of social media in education cannot merit the degree of certainty
and conviction required to vote favor of this motion. For once we need to avoid the
bravado and cheerleading that often characterizes debates about education and digital
technology. For everyone in this room who still wants to ‘believe’ in social media

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then it surely makes most sense – at least for the time being - to remain hopeful but
humble about the prospects of a better educational future. The issues surrounding this
topic are far too complex and far too important to reduce to over-enthusiastic
hyperbole and speculative hunches.

If nothing else, I hope that you all leave this session ready to continue an informed
critical debate about social media and education. This is a debate that requires the
active input of everyone within the educational technology community – not just the
usual uninformed nay-sayers. As Jaron Lanier concluded, “technology criticism
shouldn’t be left to the Luddites” (Lanier 2010, p.14). Yet we also need to stop talking
amongst ourselves, and start talking to those people outside of the educational
technology community who do not usually engage in such discussions. One of the
obvious limitations to current enthusiasms for social media is the self-contained, self-
referencing and self-defining nature of the debate. These are generally conversations
that only ever take place between groups of social media-using educators – usually
using social media to talk about the educational benefits of social media. Outside of
the narrow ‘Ed-Tech bubble’ very few people are engaging with these discussions.
We therefore need to move beyond self-referential self-congratulation and stimulate a
new phase of discussion, dialogue and conversation about what social media is – and
what social media could be – with everyone involved in education.

While these are all easy points to make, they clearly relate to some significant shifts in
thinking that will undeniably take much time and effort to achieve. For the time being,
then, it is perhaps realistic to concentrate on readjusting our own perceptions and
understandings. So what better time than now to commence this fresh outlook on
education and technology? In this spirit, I would urge you all to oppose this motion,
while still remaining broadly hopeful about the future. VOTE NOW – VOTE NO.

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Endnote

[1] The ‘90-9-1’ rule for participation inequality is a rough reckoning amongst
technologists regarding user generated content in online communities. In these terms,
one percent of users are said to be willing to be create original content on a regular
and sustained basis, nine per cent to comment, edit and perhaps contribute original
content on an intermittent basis, and the remaining 90 percent to simply passively
consume pre-existing content (see Nielsen 2006).

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